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The enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer (3 of 6): Authority: granted to ensure the enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer

The enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer (3 of 6): Authority: granted to ensure the enduring freedom of the Standard Bearer

This series is written by Joshua Hoekstra, current RFPA board president.


    Authority is a tricky word. It’s similar to the words responsibility and control. Often these words are used interchangeably, but all three words can also be distinct. It’s a word people sometimes fight about because authority is directly related to freedom.

    The Editorial Staff of the Standard Bearer has authority of the contents of the magazine.Yes, I just quoted the policy again. Remember, this is the full staff, not just the editorial committee. To have the authority over content means having the responsibility for content; it means to have control of the content. It means this: the editors decide. This is the historic reality of the editors of the Standard Bearer. Early minutes and writings make clear that this was the intent from inception.

    Responsibility of contents will be upon three editors, Revs. Danhof and Hoeksema and J. vanBeek. (Sept. 10, 1924, art. 5)

    Not only will the writers be responsible for their own contributions, together they will be responsible for the whole publication in regards to contents, goal, and principle. (transl. Rev. Danhof in first issue of the SB)

    …the editorial staff…decided to appoint…all our other ministers as associate editors of the Standard Bearer. Besides, the board of the RFPA also requested the staff to consider the appointment of five men as ‘news-editors’…These changes [to add writers] are of importance for more than one reason. In the first place, until the present, final decision regarding the contents of our Standard Bearer rested with the editorial staff. (Standard Bearer 11 no. 9 [Feb. 1, 1935]: 198) [In the rest of the article Herman Hoeksema does not shift content authority to the board but rather shows how additional writers will “write and bear the responsibility with us.”]

    The RFPA constitution at one time specifically stated that SB content was under the control of the editorial staff.

    A subcommittee of the 25th anniversary of the installation of Rev. H. Hoeksema into the ministry, jubilee committee requested the board for the use of the Sept. 15 issue of the Standard Bearer as a jubilee number. A motion was made and supported to grant this request, (but whereas art. 17 of the constitution gives the control of the contents of the Standard Bearer to the staff) the board decided to ask the staff to consider the board to be in harmony with the staff if they would decide to use said number for that purpose. (August 28, 1940, art. 3)

    The board has consistently recognized SB staff as the only authority for content. There is no instance in its history that the board has exercised authority over SB content.

    A committee of the Fuller Ave. Sunday School visited the board and came with a request to have the Sunday School lesson in our SB again. The board made plain that we have no vote in the matter, and cannot decide. (August 18, 1937, art. 3)        

    The business manager received a letter from…Chatham, Ont. Can. addressed to the Standard Bearer board in which he complains about the action of the editor in chief in refusing to place his article in the Standard Bearer. The secretary is instructed to answer…that the board has little to say in respect to the contents of our paper, but that it will investigate the incident and inform him of the outcome. (June 21, 1951, art. 7)

    Regarding an individual’s request “who has the authority of the SB” (March 1984) the Board stated: “We find though that your problem is out of our jurisdiction. Our grounds are: 1. Our constitution gives us no such authority. 2. Editorial in the Standard Bearer dated June 1941, page 412…” (excerpt from a board letter, April 19, 1984, supplement)

    Our point...has to do with relationship of the SB to the RFPA and not the control of the contents (which the editors have) of the magazine to the RFPA…the contents of the magazine are under the authority of the writers…with that we do not disagree. (RFPA board letter to editorial committee, May 31, 2012)

    This authority is necessary so that the editors can truly be free. If they do not have the authority over the content, they are not ultimately free. They can be controlled.

    Tomorrow we will look at how the RFPA board is careful to exercise influence to maintain the freedom our editors have over the content of the Standard Bearer.

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